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by Andrea M. Darcy
It’s nearing the end of another year, the time when annoying social media posts ask, “Only so many days left in the year! What have you actually accomplished?”. If you draw a blank and are left feeling, “Oh my God, my life is a waste,” you are far from alone.
It’s okay to sometimes feel useless
Here’s a secret — most people feel useless now and then. Yes, even people who seem really successful, or have a lot of money.
We have created a Western society where we are taught achievement is the key to happiness. But the problem with achievement is that it is never ending. You reach one goal, and there is another one ahead. The grass is always greener somewhere else.
Some people get hooked on the cycle achievement. But some of us sense the futility of it all. Instead of realising the system itself is flawed, we turn the futility onto ourselves. We become frozen, passive. We feel lost and like life is passing us by. We just aren’t chosen for the good stuff, we tell ourselves.
But my life is a waste, it’s true… ask anyone
It’s amazing how many of us outsource what our life is and isn’t to other people’s opinions. And by doing so we outsource our own value as well.
Meanwhile, the truth is that other people are so busy thinking about themselves, and what other people think of them, that they are truthfully thinking of you very little, if at all.
Ask yourself these questions:
- If suddenly all the people I think have a bad opinion of me vanished from the planet, how would I feel?
- If all those people actually thought I was amazing, would I actually like it? Or would I feel pressured?
What does blaming feeling useless on other people around me give me? Do I get to feel sorry for myself, disempowered, do I get to keep avoiding taking action?
But my family sees me as a loser
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If we still live our life based on what our family thinks, then it means we essentially still have to grow up. Don’t feel bad about that, many of us don’t get to this point until later in life, and that’s perfectly okay.
Part of growing up means figuring out who we are outside of our family. What our values are, versus those of our family.
- What deeply matters to us when push comes to shove?
- Who would we be if our family didn’t exist?
- How can we live out life as that person starting today?
But my family is right, I’m a lost cause
Of course the problem is some of us have a family member camping in our head for free. It’s generally the parent that always put us down. The mother who said ‘why can’t you just be well behaved like other children’. The father who said, ‘why do you have to be an artist when you could be a doctor like me’. We internalise their voice and mistake it for our own, always nagging at us at every turn life takes.
- Is the version of your family member who sees you as a loser the version who exists today, or the old version still living in your head?
What do you think of your family? Do you see then as losers? Is there some projection going on?
- What would it feel like to just live life as yourself regardless of what they think?
- Is it possible despite some road bumps that the truth is they would love you anyway?
Why do I feel that my life is a waste?
So perhaps you are getting an idea now of why you feel your life is a waste. Generally this happens because we:
What? I don’t enjoy feeling this way!
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It can be hard to admit that a certain part of us enjoys feeling miserable. But there’s a fair amount of science around how addictive negative thinking (‘rumination‘) actually is.
It can actually make our brain feel good. Unfortunately, as neuroscientist Alex Korb discusses in his book The Upward Spiral, “Pride, shame and guilt all activate similar neural circuits … they’re activating the brain’s reward centres.”
A main concept in life coaching is that in order to attract something new into our life, we have to admit what we are getting from the old pattern. And then commit to making room by letting something go.
We have to admit we might just enjoy the attention feeling a helpless victim brings. Or the lack of responsibility wasting our life allows. We’ll have to let that go and accept we might have to face our fears and get attention in other ways, if we want to create a life that is valuable.
How to stop feeling like your life is wasted
1. Switch perspective.
We can be so trapped in the perspective of our family or the perspective of the magical person we think we are supposed to be, that we can totally miss the fact that this might be a privileged and unrealistic viewpoint.
- What would your five-year old self think? Would they maybe be impressed that you live alone? Have nice clothes? Went to university?
- What about a person living in poverty in a third-world country? Would they see you as lazy and useless, or lucky? Would you want to switch lives with them, or would you suddenly be happy to stay you?
2. Start to see life as a process, not a result.
Again, focusing on results never brings satisfaction. The way to happiness is to start to enjoy the process. If you are not enjoying the process, you have chosen the wrong goals anyway. It’s time to get honest about what you actually enjoy doing and start reforming life choices around that.
Although don’t confuse maladaptive coping strategies with things you enjoy doing.If you like an activity as it helps you numb out, that’s not happiness, it means you are escaping. Look for activities that make you feel alive, clear-headed, and connected.
3. If you can’t stop comparing, compare down.
It doesn’t make you a bad person to notice how you are doing better than others, if done from the perspective of not judging anyone but just checking in with how far you’ve come. And it’s shown to help our moods and confidence.
4. Get out of the past and future and get into the present.
You can’t change the past, and you can’t control the future. The only place you have any power is here and now. Learn how to practice mindfulness, which is proven to raise our self-esteem.
5. And don’t overlook the power of support.
The problem with feeling like a massive loser is that it comes with a truckload of shame. And shame means we hide what we are going through, pretending we are ‘fine’. Of course talking to friends or family can be unhelpful, if they are the ones we secretly worry see our life as going nowhere.
A good therapist, on the other hand, gets it. They have zero judgment and know what you are going through. They can also advise you if you might have another mental health issue that is contributing to your thinking that ‘my life is a waste’, such as adult attention deficit disorder.
Adult ADHD means that your mind thinks faster than you an keep up with. And that what you say and do can not match the you that you are inside your head. The end result is always feeling a failure and like you are wasting your talents and your life. Therapy really helps.
Need help for adult ADHD or for always feeling like a failure? We connect you with some of London’s best talk therapists in central locations. Or try our sister site for therapy on a budget.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD, and advises people on how to plan their therapy journey. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy